Natasha shares Sami’s story and how taking part in a fundraising skydive made her feel close to her little butterfly.
3:00am, July 25th, 2008. It was a freezing Canberra morning as I walked (in a fashion) into the Birth Centre at the Canberra Hospital. However I was 41 weeks pregnant, in the last stages of labour and had no notion of how cold it was. I was sweating as I reached the doors and as we got inside I knew I was very close to meeting the baby inside of me. Only 20 minutes later I was holding a beautiful bundle with big round eyes staring up at me. It was a girl, a little sister for our two year old son Jacob. My husband Mark had chosen the name Samantha while I was pregnant, and so she was named Samantha Ava Whiting, our Sami. She hardly cried and spent her first few hours with those big eyes looking around everywhere. I was on a wonderful natural high. After a fantastic birth I had a beautiful, healthy daughter. I was ecstatic and already excitedly planning a butterfly themed bedroom for her in my head. We went home later that day and settled into life with two children and showing off our gorgeous little girl any chance we got.
At 19 days old our little girl seemed to have a cold. She wasn’t feeding well and was sniffling. By early evening, as Mark was holding her, he noticed that she was struggling a bit as she breathed. We decided to take her into the hospital and from there things only got worse. Sami stopped breathing and had to be revived twice. She was intubated and on all sorts of monitors and taken to the NICU. When she was finally stable we were told she had viral meningitis. Over the next two weeks our sick little girl was in the hospital and suffering from migraines from the virus. Even though Sami seemed to get better and become more alert, she wasn’t breathing on her own. An MRI showed that lack of oxygen when she stopped breathing had caused an irreparable hole in her brain stem and she would never breathe on her own again. On the 13th of September at 10am we did what we thought would be the kindest, yet hardest, thing and took out all the tubes and set her free. We were told she would maybe survive half an hour after this, however our brave little girl was stubborn and she gave us the wonderful gift of 24 more hours with her. At 10:30am on the 14th of September, a crisp, sunny Spring day, I held my Sami and Mark and I told her how proud we were of our fighter, how much we loved her, and our brave little butterfly flew away.
Time goes on. Life keeps happening. At the time my daughter died I wasn’t sure how it could. And yet somehow we kept going. We had two more children, Callum and Jensen, and I found ways to honour my daughter’s memory and keep her alive and part of our family. We had organised an annual blanket drive for the NICU for six years and with the help of the local Canberra community had donated several thousand blankets. Unfortunately this had come to an end and I wanted to find a new way to honour my daughter’s memory and was coming up with nothing. Then at the start of July while browsing Facebook I caught sight of a fundraising venture from SANDS, whose page I browsed occasionally. It was coming up Sami’s 7th birthday and I was looking for something to commemorate it, so when I saw this idea I was immediately intrigued. A skydive! I was terrified of heights, but I knew somehow that doing something brave was a fantastic way to honour my daughter. She was, after all, the bravest little girl I knew. I contacted SANDS immediately to say that I was interested in helping and told my husband what I’d done, feeling a little insane! A few emails back and forth and the fundraising page was set up and a date was set, August 1st. I shared it on Facebook almost daily and had friends and family share the page, I was getting plenty of donations coming in. The big day arrived and unfortunately the weather was terrible so the jump had to be rescheduled to the 29th. Finally THAT big day arrived! Up in the plane I was getting quite shaky and really wondered what I was doing. Then we were ready to jump and there was no more time for thinking. Suddenly I was free-falling at 14,000 feet! I could hardly breathe and was completely petrified…..and then the parachute was up and we were soaring, it was completely amazing. I was flying in the sky and I was close to my beautiful Sami, she was right there with me.
All too soon I was back on the ground and met by my boys and Mark, along with a crowd of supportive family and friends. I think I was shaking from the adrenalin rush for a good few hours afterwards, but it was wonderful and I was so glad I had done it. I had been brave, just like Sami, and had managed to raise $1450 for Sands to help support others like us. I couldn’t think of a better way to honour my precious girl.
Feeling inspired? You too can do the same as Natasha and raise vital funds for Sands. There are skydiving locations around the country – just drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org detailing your location and we can get help you with all the arrangements.